Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Haunted History of Parkersburg's Quincy Hill

With outstanding views of the Ohio River and downtown Parkersburg, clean restrooms, a quaint wooden gazebo and a cute little play area, Quincy Hill Park seems like a peaceful place to relax, and to possibly get a little exercise and fresh air.  But when the sun goes down, Quincy Hill Park is anything but peaceful.

Originally known as Prospect Hill, the area of Quincy Hill Park was used as a tent hospital during the Civil War.  It was actually one of five Civil War hospitals that sprung up in the area during the war years, and from what I can gather, this tent-city operation, which was home from anywhere to 500-1000 sick and wounded soldiers, was one of the lower rungs.  It was where the African American and Irish immigrant soldiers were sent.  At one point, a small pox epidemic raged through the camp, devastating the patients and overwhelming the small staff. Moans and cries from the sick and dying could be heard all the way in downtown Parkersburg, and it seems as if some of those soldiers never left.  Over 150 years later, the moans of those who suffered terribly atop the hill can still be heard.  In the book, A Guide to Haunted West Virginia, authors Gavenda and Shoemaker tell of one tale in particular which occurred on the evening of September 26, 1996 as two young girls ascended Quincy Hill to get a good view of that night's lunar eclipse.  Below them, they heard the moan and the rustling of what they assumed to be the restless spirits of long-dead Civil War soldiers.

Susan Sheppherd, of the Parkersburg Ghost Tours also related a rather interesting ghost tale associated with the Civil War spirits of Quincy Hill.  Ron Nelson, an historian, Civil War re-enactor, and ghost hunter visited the area one evening and conducted an EVP session.  He was shocked to find on his recording what sounded like someone whistling the commercial from an Irish Spring soap commercial!  Consulting experts, he found that the song whistled in the commercials was an old Irish folk song...and that the soldiers sent to this particular hospital were largely of Irish heritage.

Another ghost story from Quincy Hill isn't related to the Civil War, but it does take on a more visual experience.  One way to get to the top of the hill is to climb the 150+ stairs leading up from Avery Street.  About halfway up, there is a small concrete landing lit with a lamppost.  Joggers and other early morning visitors to this area have seen the apparition of a Native American standing on this spot.

Quincy Tank Disaster
With all the ghost tales stemming from the Civil War era and earlier, a tragic event in the area's history is sometimes overlooked.  Back on March 19, 1909, the hill was still known as Prospect Hill, and at its top were perched the city's two reserve water tanks.  Around 5:10am, one of the tanks burst, crashing into its twin and causing it to burst as well, sending 2 million gallons of water rushing down the hill and directly into town.  A newlywed couple was killed when their small home was washed away, several were severely injured, and a church and several homes were destroyed.  Other homes and businesses received a great deal damage, and debris littered the streets.  Although I am unaware of any ghost stories resulting from this tragic event, one can't help but note that this one little area has seen a great deal of tragedy within a short period of time. 

Quincy Hill Water Tank Disaster: Photos and articles from Jim Dawson
Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours by Susan Sheppherd
A Guide to Haunted West Virginia by Walter Gavenda and Michael T. Shoemaker

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